(This article was originally posted on October 1st, 2018 on nylc.org.)
I feel so alive that I don’t feel tired anymore,
All I hear is birds chirping,
The cool breeze hits my body and sends chills through my veins,
Goosebumps make the hairs on my arm stand tall,
I prostrate to my lord,
Prostrating longer than I’m supposed to,
This moment does not feel real,
This mosque is heaven on earth and I don’t want to leave…
Every day for the rest of my life can be spent in …
A place where you can feel the love and peace in the air,
A place where the water current is never stationary,
80 million people with smiles on their faces,
Welcoming all people from different nationalities and races,
A place your taste buds have never tasted,
Where the love is Cherished and never wasted,
The call for prayer is loud and clear,
music to my soul.
First off, I want to thank everyone that made this trip possible for me and for the youth that joined. I am forever thankful to the good-hearted people that took the time, effort and money to put this into play. I would have never known about the other side of the globe that was so beautiful and worth every second of my time if it wasn’t for this trip. It has really empowered me as a Muslim American and I had a great time and the people that came with me knew I had a great time. I tried to soak in as much knowledge as possible and enjoy my time as much as possible too. I really do believe that trips like this with youth can improve relations between Turkey and the United States. You won’t find anything but love in Turkey and I say that because people there will go out of their way to have a conversation with you or even help you out when they do not know you.
Before I went on this trip I studied a bit about Turkey’s economics, its culture, and their way of life. I found it quite intriguing but reading about a country is not the same as visiting. I was mind blown about their culture and how similar it was to Middle Eastern cultures I was familiar with, I am Palestinian. I experienced many different artifacts and I loved how the Turks preserved their rich and valuable history. With everything going on in the world right now and the fact that their dollar is being attacked by neighboring Muslim countries, they still remain calm and find a lot of hope in building a Muslim nation in a secular country. I can tell the people of Turkey love their history because throughout every conversation I had with a Turkmen they made sure to stir in some history into the conversation. They name their children after sultans, and influential Islamic leaders that shaped Turkey.
I got the chance to visit many mosques that empowered me as a Muslim adult. To see how vast and big these mosques were and how there were so many of them everywhere really inspired me. Many sultans and powerful Islamic leaders lived, prayed, and taught in these lands and for that reason, as a Muslim American, I feel the need to carry the responsibility of Islam on my shoulders. These sultans and leaders had the power and authority to build huge mosques with four to six minarets shows me how very powerful and influential they were in their times. Something you would not see in the United States.
I believe that by coming on this trip and seeing, feeling, and hearing everything that I did was a great accomplishment. I had the opportunity to experience many things students my age have not experienced. I was able to do things they could not imagine, like praying in huge and beautiful mosques. These mosques had calligraphy from the Ottoman times on their ceilings and walls, it was so powerful. I was able to eat delicious food and really dive into Muslim and Turkish culture.
This trip has shaped my plans for the future. I am currently a business student at Century College, studying International Trade, specifically import and export. This trip has given me new insights on where I can start my career and what countries I could be dealing with in the trade industry. I learned things like what I can and can’t bring to America, what’s profitable and what’s not, and what can help both economies because that’s what trade is for. I definitely believe the trip has opened more doors for me, it was a great learning experience for both my career and my life.
This trip has inspired me to become an active Muslim and has strengthened my faith. I learned that throughout all the secularism that you’re around you should still be the person you want to be. I want to be the Muslim and I want to be proud of who I am. I want to always strive to be the best person I can be and not worry so much about others’ opinions. I need to just do the right thing. To take on this weight and knowledge as I return to Minnesota is my responsibility. I hope I can grab the attention of the Muslim community as this is also my responsibility. We Muslims need to unite and help each other hand in hand to raise awareness of who we really are and what it means to be a Muslim. We might have our careers, jobs, and life pressures but must also pay attention to how we use our resources, knowledge and careers to strengthen our community.